Each month, my brain fabricates a few good ideas for this column, and a lot of silly ones. Usually, one of them sticks, and things just sort of flow from there. Sometimes, though, all those thought trains get derailed by some random preoccupation that takes hold with the tenacity of a terrier. This is one […]Read more
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- August 23, 2022 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 519
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 519! Our featured interview tonight is with pipe maker Doug Finlay. Doug started making pipes as a hobby in 2017 since he enjoyed smoking a pipe so much. After only two years, in 2019 one of Doug’s pipes was one of seven winners in the 2019 North American Pipe Carvers Contest at the The Greater Kansas City Pipe & Tobacco Show. He is a full time pipe maker now. In Pipe Parts, Brian will have a show report from last weekend’s North American Society of Pipe Collectors show. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- August 16, 2022 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 518
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 518! On tonight’s show we have a new episode of an ongoing segment of what Brian likes to call “Inside Fred’s Head” with Fred Hanna. Fred is a well-known pipe collector, author, and speaker at pipe shows. He has a PhD. in psychology and teaches the same at the Chicago Campus at Adler University. He is also author of the book, “The Perfect Smoke”. This is the 10th in the series with a long form discussion of pipe and tobacco questions sent in by our listeners. In the opening “Pipe Parts” segment, Brian will have a totally unfair pipe tobacco review, and it’s unfair for so many reasons. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- August 9, 2022 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 517
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 517! Our featured interview tonight is with pipe maker Robert Amundson. Robert might be the most northern pipe maker in the world. He lives in Alaska, and there is a town named North Pole, and it’s south of him. Like many pipe makers he has a background in carpentry. He was inspired to explore pipe making while buying a pipe in a store in 2014 and seeing a block of briar, which he also bought. Robert is a member of The Seattle Pipe Club, and he made their Pipe of the Year in 2021. In Pipe Parts, we will have an Ask the Tobacco Blender segment with Jeremy Reeves. Jeremy is the Head Blender at Cornell & Diehl, which is one of the most popular boutique pipe tobacco companies in the USA. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- August 2, 2022 Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 516
Welcome to The Pipes Magazine Radio Show Episode 516! Our featured interview tonight is with Dr. Charles “Matt” Watson. Matt holds a Ph.D in Quantitative Biology, an M.S. in Biology, and a B.S. in Wildlife Science with a minor in Forestry. He is an Associate Professor at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. In our opening Pipe Parts segment, Brian will offer advice on what to look for when buying old / estate tins of tobacco to tell if the seal has been compromised. Sit back, relax with your pipe, and enjoy The Pipes Magazine Radio Show!
- August 1, 2022 Heat Waves
I do not like hot weather. When the mercury pushes close to body temperature, my icy heart begins to melt, and when it reaches the point where I break out in a sweat as a result of the strenuous act of sitting upright, I consider calling around to see if I can book time in one of the refrigerated drawers at a local morgue. Heat and I just don’t get along well. We never have. Indulge my rambling, if you will; this really is about pipes and tobaccos. During the cooler months, I’m most often drawn towards fuller mixtures, rich with latakia, redolent of those wonderful aromas of campfires and leather and the smells of classic British sport cars and motorbikes that occupied so much of my youth. Seriously. It’s not the spice of orientals alone that brings comfort, but the warm blanket of latakia itself. These fuller mixtures recall some of my fondest smoking memories. I’m reminded of walks in the woods on cool, misty days, when the smoke would hang in the air, chilled by the moisture, its perfumed clouds delighting my senses, or evenings by the fire, accompanied by a wee dram of a fine malt, a comfortable chair and a good book. When the weather is all “hotting up,” though, I find latakia, in more than gentle seasoning proportions, to be too much of a good thing, almost overwhelming, so I turn to lighter mixtures and especially virginia blends, with or without perique. It’s something I’ve always found interesting, if occasionally vexing. Is it the temperature? The humidity? The pressure of the air molecules as they dance around, mingling with the tobacco’s smoke? Cosmic rays? Is it a subtle change in body chemistry that results from seasonal changes in diet? Set and setting? Or, is it some confluence of all these factors, and others not noted, that has such a profound influence on my smoking pleasure? I know I’m not completely alone; over the years, I’ve had conversations with pipe smokers who experience similar changes in tastes as the weather shifts. Interestingly, others insist that I’m delusional, that climate has no influence at all upon their choice of tobacco, and that they smoke the same tobaccos year round. Perhaps they live in relatively constant climates, or choose tobaccos with smoking characteristics that are less influenced by climate. Sometimes, I’m a little jealous of them; having my choices limited by something as intractable as the weather can be challenging to my inner control freak. But, the influence of climate on smoking can be subtle or alarming, and no amount of note-taking has led me to anything resembling actual understanding. Hold that thought. I first became aware of this phenomenon one cool autumn evening while waiting with some friends for a table at a popular restaurant. I had with me a lovely smooth Drucquer/LaCroix apple, one of my finest smokers at the time, and a tin of my recently discovered Benson & Hedges Finest Smoking Mixture[fn]The B&H was a beautiful mixture, produced by Gallaher, Ltd, and it came in a beautiful red and gold tin. Virginias, with a bit of latakia and perique, and it was this blend that inspired my own Piccadilly. Tonight, as I scribbled my final paragraphs, the weather was cool, breezy, and felt like rain might be coming; rumor has it there’s a storm developing off the coast. I’m enjoying that very combination that I enjoyed so much that evening so long ago. We’re all quite a few years older, tobacco, pipe and smoker, but the experience is no less superb, and the memories kindled, equally so.[/fn]. Knowing that we’d have at least a 45 minute wait, I had time for a bowl. That smoke was one of those memorable ones that always brings a smile when recalled. (How many remember when you could smoke a pipe in public without a torch and pitchfork brigade instantly forming a circle, insisting you are killing babies not yet conceived and chanting demands for your head? How far we’ve fallen in so few years.) It wasn’t the first time I’d smoked that tobacco in that pipe, but it was somehow different. It led me down a path of wonder just how much environmental factors can influence the enjoyment we take from burning a bowl of shredded leaves. One of the most dramatic examples of this that I can recall happened in August of 2002, while visiting friends in Denmark. There is a certain tabac, a Virginia flake loved by many, but one that I generally find tortuous; smoking it has always seemed to me to be the pipe smoking equivalent to sucking on the business end of a plasma cutter. I figured it was just a body chemistry thing. But when a friend offered a fill of this hell-spawned leaf, his regular smoke, I graciously accepted, rubbed out a flake, tamped it into the smallest pipe I had with me, and was astonished by the experience of a cool and enjoyable smoke. What? Figuring there must be some difference between the “home trade” tobacco sold in Denmark, and what was exported to the US, I bought a couple tins for further exploration. During my visit, I smoked through most of the first tin, enjoying every bowl, but when I returned to California, that very same tobacco, in the very same pipes, reignited my fear and loathing of the stuff. The temperatures at home and in Copenhagen at the time were not much different, so clearly something else was at play. If I were to throw a dart at the guess board, it would be that humidity was a factor. Another, albeit somewhat embarrassing anecdote might put a bit of meat to the bones of this hypothesis. One morning, some years ago, while still brain-fogged by insufficient sleep following a late night gig, I found myself coming to barely-waking consciousness whilst in the shower. Nothing odd there. But, the pipe clenched between my teeth at the time […]
- August 1, 2022 More Is Better, Maybe!
Ah, the dog days of summer. Just think of your poor family dog who must endure the heat and humidity in a fur coat. The Pundit’s beautiful Golden Retriever just plops down on the floor exhausted and sleeps. A lot. And speaking of heat and humidity, a frightful thought on the global front, it is time to think of good summer tobaccos. Nothing too heavy, just a light little tap on the shoulder, so to speak. Maybe a Virginia-burley blend with a touch of Perique. I like the ribbon cuts for summertime smoking when the “livin’ is easy and the fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high,” with thanks to George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess opera. And, yes, back in the day, Pundit was quite the fly-tying, pipe-smoking, chest-wading, trout-hunting, crazy rod-toting, fly-fisherman. Corn cob pipes were for smoking when fat, high-flying trout were jumpin.’ Never one of those beautifully designed and lovingly hand-crafted pieces of old wood briar. No sir. No risks are taken when excited and shouting for joy with a large trout on the other end of the fly line. Only to note in the splashy chaos the magnificent briar leaped from mouth to the fast-moving stream and sped off downstream. But now back to dog days and pipe tobacco. Virginia-burley flakes are also a fav in the blistering days of summer. And let’s not bypass our light English blends. Or the noticeably light aromatics. Nothing drenched in dressing. A wee dram of topping will do. A few of the heavier Virginia-Burley blends, say from Cornell & Diehl, require patient puffing. Nothing rolling down the tracks at full steam sort of thing. Slow and easy with some of the heavier VaBurs. Especially if you are a nicotine wimp like the Pundit. A moderate nic hit is fine. But I have occasionally gone so far over the dark nic abyss with strong tobaccos loaded with nicotine so as to experience the onset of that most disconcerting sensation of falling, spiraling into the dark unknown, with cold sweats, hazy thinking, and hallucinations. “Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’ Poe’s “The Raven!” would then be the exquisitely apt verbal utterance we squeak out involuntarily when suffering the turbid depths of that awful green gills feeling. Okay, light up the Virginias with perhaps a little touch of perique and a dab of burley. Slow and easy on puffing, like hot evenings in the South. This next thought from the Pundit might be too much of an existential question, but here goes. Is it possible to own too many pipes? Have you successfully reached the end of pipe collecting and stuffing the cellar with more tobacco than you will ever consume? And do you then find this quiet realization quickly subsumed by a sudden and viral case of PAD, compelling one to add even more to the seemingly ever-expanding herd? Which then sends PAD sub-variants of TAD into whirls of ignition. Thus adding more pipes and tobacco to a sagging pipe shelf and a bloated tobacco cellar. How does one curtail the lifelong pleasure of collecting beautiful handmade pipes and artfully created tobacco blends? Cull and sell much of the overgrown collection, did I hear someone say! Nay, nay, replies Pundit. This is just not going to happen on Pundit’s watch. So, what to do? That’s a reasonable question. With perplexing problems that arise in every life, I fill a briar bowl with an aged blend of Virginia and puff away until a light goes on somewhere within the deep folds of the mind. No lights yet, but I’m working on it. Maybe a museum! Mayhaps my daughters will decide to keep them instead of tossing them (oh, the horror, the horror!). All suggestions toward a possible solution to this nagging problem will be greatly appreciated. No need to mention sales talk. It won’t compute. And now for a notable major cigar smoker and pipe personality from the past—Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock, Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. And commander of the “Birds” and other scary movies such as “Psycho,” both of which should not be viewed alone in the dark. Sir Alfred was born in Leytonstone, England, near London, on Aug. 13, 1899, and died in Los Angeles, Calif., on April 29, 1980. His legendary films collected 46 Academy Award nominations, including six wins, although he never achieved the award for Best Director despite five nominations. But he did earn two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! He was once referred to as a “young man with a mastermind.” And Sir Alfred was indeed the master of melodrama, suspense, and thrillers. Just the memory of “Psycho” gives Pundit the heebie-jeebies after all these years. A quote or two from the master of suspense: There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it A glimpse into the world proves that horror is nothing other than reality. And yes, boys and girls, Sir Alfred did indeed smoke pipes, despite his fearsome film noir. No less authority than guru tobacco reviewer Jiminks says the wizard of the thriller smoked Dunhill pipe blends. Amen to that. And one more notable consummate pipe smoker, former President Gerald R. Ford, who served our great nation from August 1974 to January 1977. The 38th President stepped up his vice presidential duties and guided the nation through its “long nightmare,” after Watergate took down his predecessor, President Richard M. Nixon. Again, Jiminks, says Ford reportedly smoked Field & Stream, Walnut, and also noted in a book publication he also puffed Edgeworth Ready Rubbed. The Pundit leaves you with one of his gems of thought: Pipe smokers are the mind workers of the world, an oft-repeated pipe proverb by the Pundit. We are an eclectic group that enjoys each other’s company and conversation. Those qualities seem to be in scarcity today. We need more pipe smokers, Quoth the Pundit.